The Art of Interacting with Your Child
Two weeks ago, we had a mini-series called, "Are You Your Child's Worst Critic?". You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here and here, respectively. The gist of the mini-series is that communicating with kids requires some thought and a lot of love and care, just like any interaction with other grown-ups. There is some unspoken code when adults speak with each other and when it comes to how we as adults prefer to be talked to, so it should be no different when it comes to communicating with kids.
In this article, we will further delve into the intricacies of interaction in parent-child relationships.
Honesty is the best policy
Pretty sure everyone has heard about the story of Pinocchio - a wooden toy puppet burdened with the curse of truth. Having to constantly tell the truth is a hard thing, especially with children. Children, being the innocent beings that they are, will sometimes astonish you with questions like, “Why do I have a grandpa but Johnny doesn’t?”.
It is important to know that children come to parents with the utmost sincerity and curiosity, hoping that we answer them genuinely. Evading or stalling won’t get you anywhere as little ones can sense doubt and ambiguity from a mile away.
In terms of lying, adults can argue that as you grow up, one will notice the difference between a white lie and a lie. For kids, however, they're not able to differentiate between the two. Mark Twain once said, "if you tell the truth, you would not have to remember anything."
It is always good to answer things truthfully, even if it's something peripheral or sensitive. Keep in mind that your child will eventually find out some things, and perhaps even everything. A difference and disorientation in information will only deter any existing affinity you share with your child. After all, trust takes a lot of time to build, but only seconds to break.
A conversation goes two ways
Talking with your child is an art of its own. Notice how I use the word ‘with’ instead of ‘to.' People don’t realise it, but the way a parent and a child engage in a conversation is arguably the most important aspect in parenting.
Some parenting styles overemphasise the need for respect towards elders. This one-sided show of respect gets in the way of parents and children having raw, genuine and honest conversations. Parents will usually talk ‘to’ their child, forgetting that conversations and relationships are two-way streets.
This often lopsided exchange prevents the child from contributing to the conversation, simply based on the questionable notion or belief that children shouldn’t "talk back" to adults. While it is true that with age comes experience and wisdom, children also have their own opinions, beliefs and feelings that are just as valid as those of adults. People are unaware that parents also need to earn the respect of their children just as much as children need to earn the respect of their parents.
Teaching through play
The act of playing with your child has a lot of science to it. It is through playing with your child that you can empower and motivate them to elevate to higher planes.
One of the times I remember having fun as a child is when my uncle would bring me to the park to play football. When I was playing football with my uncle, I realised that he would always try to kick to ball faster and father each time as we were playing off. I found it to be extremely annoying and irritating at first. But as time went by, I began to improve my speed and my dribbling skills. In retrospect, I began to understand what he had been doing to me: I was actually building up my ability to perceive challenges and to aim higher and higher.
See also: Are You a Helicopter Parent? Part 2
Children nowadays are reduced to their cuteness, when they are actually bundles of unlimited potential and tenacity. Despite their innocence, children can tell if they are not doing well and feel insecure about themselves. It is very important to know that when you play with your child, do not overwhelm them - but do not underestimate them either.
The act of fair play is very important. Frankly, it wouldn’t be enjoyable if you make your kid feel that playing with you isn’t fun because you will win anyway. Playing with your child requires that nice balance between challenging him to make him improve and encouraging him to progress even further. Studies have shown that this kind of organisational micro-routine adaption patterns exist in mice, too. The fact that this ethical basis of fair play also exists in animals is absolutely fascinating. But I digress.
Just like what has been mentioned in the previous mini-series, positive parent-child interactions involve empathy, understanding and patience - just like any interaction with anyone, no matter the age. Treat others as you would want to be treated - this includes little ones, too.
Terry is a Law student, studying at Wellington, New Zealand. He holds deep ardor for cyber security politics and international legal affairs. In his spare time, Terry is a fitness and music enthusiast. He can play 7 instruments - a jack of all trades, yet a master of none.